Make Your Child Obesity-Proof!

Guest Post By Paula Gustafson, MD

We have all heard the alarming news about childhood obesity: almost one in five of our school-aged children and teens are obese.  Even more are overweight. But did you know that this obesity epidemic affects our infants and toddlers too!

I’m a board-certified pediatrician at Major Pediatrics in Shelbyville, Indiana and mother of 5 grown children. I have both a professional and a personal interest in this epidemic, especially in how to stop it and reverse it.

You don’t have to be a doctor to know that becoming overweight and obese doesn’t occur just as a child starts school.  It starts very early in life in the home.  That’s where you come in.  Together we can PREVENT this from happening by starting our children out on the right path to a healthy lifestyle.  It’s easy and can be done by anyone.

Raising healthy weight children starts in the newborn period by establishing healthy eating habits. My partners and I have started a program to help parents do this.  It’s called the Major Easy 3 (  The program helps parents and caregivers create a healthy lifestyle for their infants and toddlers and is made up of three easy-to-remember steps.

1. Drink milk with meals – Have your children drink only milk with meals, breast milk or formula if they are under one year of age. Milk is the perfect healthy start to life and the perfect beverage for growing children with its calcium, vitamin D and protein.  I raised my children on drinking milk at meals. In fact, when they were all teenagers and actively involved in sports we drank several gallons of milk a week. We had a “milk refrigerator” in the garage to make sure we always had enough milk on hand. Growing bodies need nutrition, and milk has it!

2. Offer only water for refreshment – Children do not need the sugar that is in soda and juice.  Even 100% juice provides little nutrition for the amount of calories in the beverage. Did you know that even drinking only one glass of juice or soda per day, approximately 100-120 calories, can add 10 to 12 pounds of weight per year?  It is easy to see why our young children can gain excess weight if we allow them to drink these beverages. Ten extra pounds on a 2 year-old is not good news – it can easily push them into an obese condition. Offer your children only water for refreshment.  It is the perfect beverage –   zero calories, and it’s what the body needs.

3. Eat all meals and snacks at the table – Healthy habits start with eating with the family.  Allowing children to combine eating with playtime or to snack in front of the television only encourages overeating and the consumption of high calorie, non-nutritious foods. Use mealtime as a chance to sit together as a family. Studies have shown that families eat healthier if they sit at the table for all their meals and snacks.

Any healthy eating plan for children starts with the Major Easy 3.  Make the Major Easy 3 the rule in your home and you will know that you are giving your child a healthy start in life.  Obesity-proof your child through right choices and positive guidance. It’s as easy as 1,2,3.

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